Big Leaf Maple
(Acer macrophyllum)
The day before the fires started down in here Southern California
my parents came up to visit and we took a drive through the
mountains near where I work. Up and over a divide we went and
while winding down the steep road on the backside suddenly, boom,
there was intense color. Several big leaf maples in all their fall
glory were nestled in the chaparral canyon there.
It was the same story back in early October when Todd and I
drove up towards Big Bear Lake. Hum drum mixed-conifer forest
was suddenly interrupted with yellow bursts of color in the canyons!
So my new favorite tree for the season is the Big Leaf Maple
(
Acer macrophyllum). Like their name suggests, they have the
biggest leaves of any maple tree - up to 14" wide. The trees
themselves get up to 100' tall and they can live to be 300 years old
or more. They grow in most of California, western Oregon,
Washington, and British Columbia.

Squirrels, chipmunks, and several species of birds eat maple seeds
and shelter in big leaf maple trees. Native Americans used the
bark for making rope and the wood for making bowls, utensils, and
canoe padles. Maple syrup can be made from the sap but these
trees haven't been used to make syrup commercially. Big leaf
maple is well-adapted to fire, which is good news for the ones we
saw that grow amongst the chaparral-covered hills.